Podcast extract from James Weaver on the 1986 Le Mans 24 Hours
“I was driving for Richard Lloyd, who was running the Liqui Moly Porsche 956 for Mauro Baldi, Price Cobb and Rob Dyson. He was also running the factory Nissan team with two cars. We had the new R85V car, designed by Gordon Coppuck – it was absolutely stunning, a fabulous thing – and then we had the old bucket, which was the ’85 March 85G.
“I was supposed to be in the new car, but at the last minute I was levered into the old one. Practice was a bun fight, and I said the Porsche Curves were fourth gear. The Japanese drivers said fourth was too tall and got the engineers to put a really short fourth gear in. When you changed to fifth there was such a huge revs drop the thing wouldn’t go. Anyway, they were told not run the engine at 7000rpm because it had a horrible vibration and it would break the crank. They set off down the Mulsanne at 7000rpm and strangely the crank broke…
“We were now down to one car and [team manager] Keith [Greene] was pretty cheesed off. He decided to take the Japanese driver out of the old car and stick him in the new one so I could have the weekend off. I sat down in the motorhome to have a few glasses of wine, but the organisers said we had four people in the car and they were going to exclude us. Keith did some fast talking and ultimately the ACO said they’d turn a blind eye if I got back in the car.
“I said, ‘What shall I do, Keith?’ ‘Run around the motorhome twice. If you can make it, I’ll see you in the pits.’ I did that, went to the pits, jumped in the car and said to Keith, ‘That’s odd, the water temperature’s at 40 degrees, we need to tape the radiators up.’ It wouldn’t run because it was so cold. So eventually he said ‘Look, drive up to the end of the pitlane and sit with it on the limiter for five minutes to see if you can get it hot enough and therefore have enough power to get onto the track’. That’s what I did. Of course, as soon as we got on the Mulsanne the temperature dropped.
“Things got worse to the point that when I was in the motorhome the Japanese team manager said he wanted me to drive again, ‘because [Takao] Wada’ – who was actually a good driver – ‘can’t see at night.’ He’d waited until halfway through the race to say so!
“So I set off again, but did only three or four laps because they decided that a full-course yellow was the cue to call me into the pits, drag me out and put old Wada-san in! They said, ‘He’s going to drive under yellow and then when the track goes green, you can get back in.’ This guy’s sat in the car for half an hour and, when the yellows were over, they pulled him out and I carried on.
“At the next pitstop it wouldn’t start, so they had this idea of jump-starting it, which is not allowed. They got a tiny little Japanese bloke, taped a battery to his stomach, zipped his overalls up and stuffed the jump leads down his arms. He had crocodile clips for hands, goes to start it, misses and shorts himself out. This poor bloke is lying on the ground sparking away. Even the ACO noticed this so there was hell to pay. Everyone was shouting so Keith said, ‘Get in the car and drive off’. Which is what I did.”
Weaver’s Nissan R85V was classified 16th, 85 laps behind the winning Porsche.
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